The Indiana blogosphere has a lot to say on the matter of Matt Kelty's campaign-finance-disclosure problem. Some, such as Fort Wayne Libertarian Mike Sylvester, think the Kelty for Mayor campaign just made a mistake in reporting, and it's too bad the filing laws are so complex that a lawyer is needed to understand them. Jeff Pruitt at Fort Wayne Left thinks it's pretty clear Kelty broke campaign finance law. The liberal blog Taking Down Words seems gleeful that a "Fort Wayne right-winger" would be in such a pickle, while the conservative Angry White Boy thinks the whole thing will blow over but is distressed at the bad advice Kelty must have gotten from lawyers. Left of Centrist doesn't want to "come right out and call Kelty a liar" -- but, after all, what else would you expect from a Republican? Advance Indiana seems convinced of Kelty's guilt, and Fort Wayne Observed links to the actual amended campaign finance report filed by Kelty.
The Election Board will decide what laws, if any, it thinks were broken, and the courts will be involved if need be, so perhaps we ought to reserve judgment on that part. But the burden of proof is clearly on Kelty to convince us he wasn't trying to make his campaign less than transparent. Contributions he reported as personal loans to himself were actually loans to him by people close to his campaign, the bulk of the money coming from Frederick Rost, a Kelty campaign adviser and president of Allen County Right to Life. Rost also funded the Zogby poll -- anonymously at first -- that had results favorable to Kelty, and Kelty has insisted all along he did not know who paid for the poll. How is a reasonable person not supposed to think that Kelty wants to keep the public from knowing who is financing his mayoral candidacy?
Campaign-finance laws have become more and more convoluted and ridiculous, with so many rules about who can give what to whom that ordinary people can't be blamed for not even wanting to get involved in supporting a candidate. Every time the politicians try to tighten the rules, for example trying to differentiate "hard" money from "soft," the candidates find loopholes. The one thing we should insist on is knowing where the money comes from.
I don't care if a candidate gets $1 million from one donor or $1 each from a million donors, as long as I know where the money came from. It is neither her nor there that Kelty is getting a lot of backing from pro-lifers. We should feel the same about disclosure if he were being funded by Planned Parenthood or labor unions or UFO clubs. As long as voters know where the money is coming from, they can use that information as part of the decision-making process when choosing whom to vote for.